Did you know that you can register your international travel plans with the US Department of State free of charge? Benefits of enrollment include…
- Receive safety information about the countries to which you are traveling
- Help the US Embassy contact you in an emergency involving a natural disaster, civil unrest or family emergency
- Facilitate family and friends getting in touch with you in an emergency
Simply go to https://step.state.gov/step/ and enroll before your next adventure!
Plan your cash needs for foreign travel and check what the currency rate is before your travels by going to: http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/ (also available as a smartphone app). Other helpful apps include GlobeConvert and World Currency Converter. Your local bank will add a fee so only take enough foreign cash to handle your initial needs. Your best conversion rate is at an ATM machine at your foreign destination.
The US Department of State is expecting a record number of passport requests this year – new and renewals. Processing time is currently running about six weeks. Avoid costly expedite fees and submit your renewal in plenty of time. As a reminder, more and more countries are requiring that passport expiration dates be valid for at least six months beyond your ending travel date. You can easily renew online at:
US Department of State
Have you found it more and more difficult to spend quality family time together, especially if some family members live far away? Consider planning a vacation that brings family members together in a fun and enriching way. Experiencing an adventure together or meeting in a relaxing paradise can create unforgettable memories while reconnecting and deepening family bonds.
Lots of exciting destinations make good choices. There are also numerous types of vacations to consider, being careful to choose a vacation that fits your family’s budget, interests and everyone’s availability. Pleasing everyone all of the time may not be possible, but having a variety of activities from which to choose will ensure there is something that appeals to each family member. Planning is key to making it successful and enjoyable for everyone. Here are a few helpful ideas to include in your planning process:
- What dates will work best for everyone?
- Establish a budget and decide who will pay – communicate this to all family members to avoid surprises
- Decide the type of vacation – adventuresome, cultural, physically active, relaxing, learning, etc.
- How much time is expected to spend together and what alone time may be available?
An ocean cruise can be an ideal choice for family travel since there is a wide variety of activities available, as well as cabin types and dining options. Some family members can choose to be very active while others can choose to relax during the day, but everyone can gather again at least for dinner. Choose from luxury ships (like Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas or Paul Gauguin), more mainstream cruise ships (such as Princess or Royal Caribbean) to eco-adventure or sailing ships (such as Lindblad Expeditions or Windstar), and from itineraries all around the world.
A number of tour operators specialize in family travel so you may want to take advantage of itineraries offered by one of these companies… Disney ventured into ocean cruising several years ago but now also offers luxurious land tours on all continents and will soon introduce river cruising in Europe. Tauck, a luxury land tour operator who also offers river cruising in Europe, offers specific itineraries for families including African safaris. Thomson Family Adventures, with roots as a successful safari operator, has specialized in family travel since 1998. Backroads offers premium or luxury bicycling and multi-sport trips throughout the world and offers a number of itineraries geared for families.
Call Gateway Destinations to create unforgettable memories through extraordinary travel for your family, 602-923-1542.
Visa requirements for a country will describe what vaccinations, if any, are required before entry. You can easily find out what vaccinations or medicine are recommended in addition to any minimum requirements for your intended destination by contacting the Center for Disease Control. Go to www.cdc.gov/travel and enter your destination(s). Allow plenty of time before you travel before you travel in case there are timing requirements.
Having long been on my personal bucket list, visiting the mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains of Uganda was nothing short of awesome and even better than I anticipated. Observing these intelligent, playful and handsome creatures up close and personal in the wild jungle of Bwindi’s Impenetrable Forest (aptly named for its dense vegetation,) elevated my already-high appreciation of Nature’s beauty and diversity. Expert trackers found the Nkuringo family of 12 early in the day of my journey, which allowed our small group of human trekkers, porters and armed ranger precious time to spend with these magnificent mammals before the onslaught of torrential seasonal rains. Daily permits are issued to a limited number of visitors and for only one hour of visitation in Uganda, Rwanda and the Republic of Congo in order to minimize man’s impact on their natural habitat and way of life. Permit revenue is responsible for curbing poaching as it has become an important source of income for the government and a portion of it goes to support services in the local communities as well.
A short flight from Entebbe to Kisoro in a comfortable small plane was followed by an adventurous 2-hour drive on a rough and rugged mountainous road to the site of Nkuringo Gorilla Camp. This lovely hilltop 3+-star property has 14 clean and very comfortable rooms with ensuite baths, most of which are individual cottages with private decks. Delicious meals are served in the common dining room and panoramic views include the Bwindi Forest, nearby Ugandan villages and Rwanda and Congo. For a luxury experience, nearby Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge boasts very private and spacious cottages, each with their own fireplace.
Visiting the Nkuringo gorilla family of Bwindi National Park requires strenuous trekking on steep mountainsides but it will take you through incredibly beautiful scenery and remote rural villages. The mountain gorillas can also be safely visited in a few other places in Uganda and Rwanda, most requiring less serious hiking. Some families also live in the Republic of Congo but it is still unstable and travel is not recommended in this area. In addition to seeing the gorillas, there is a lot to experience in Nkuringo and Kisoro including endless scenic hikes, dining with a local family, visiting a coffee plantation or local school, riding in a dugout canoe on beautiful Lake Mutunda, trekking to see Golden Monkeys, and learning about the Batwa tribe and their fascinating former way of life as forest dwellers before being relocated from Bwindi when it became a national park.
Uganda has a lot to offer travelers in addition to a life-changing mountain gorilla encounter – breath-taking natural scenery, abundant wildlife including big game safaris such as found in beautiful Kidepo Valley, delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, and happy, welcoming people. Call us for a free consultation to see how you can best explore Uganda’s treasures.
Looking for a quick source for vaccination and medicine advice while traveling abroad? Or, ever wonder what you should not eat in a foreign country? The Center for Disease Control has developed two free useful apps you may want to download on your smartphone: CDC TravWell and CDC, Can I Eat This? Feel well during your vacation!
For over 20 years, I have delighted in exploring France, and there still remains a lot to be discovered. A recent month-long exploration of Brittany in the northwest introduced me to new foods and delicious apple cider, the Celtic language (sub-titled on most road signs) and mysterious stone monoliths. Even having visited the infamous medieval city and abbey of Mont Saint-Michel before, I was eager to once again visit this stunning example of man’s ingenuity in design. Miles and miles of scenic coastline canbe explored on wonderful footpaths in Brittany. Roads are in excellent condition making it easy to drive on your own and the region is well served by train.
Here are a few photos to give you a glimpse of this beautiful and peaceful region of France, but I encourage you to take your own photos and create your own memories. Let our experience show you how–call us today to begin planning your custom journey into the French countryside!
France has been able to enchant the world with its cultural stream of art, history, architecture, fashion, and food. If you’ll be staying in France, either with your group of friends as an all-women tour of France, or traveling with family or by yourself, you will definitely come across these traditional and elaborate dishes. French food is best known for its unusual and unorthodox combinations of ingredients, so prepare your taste buds for both an elegant and intricate ride ahead.
- Blanquette de Veau: Delicate, fine pieces of veal are soaked in a creamy sauce and garnished with rice, such as pilau rice, along with onions and their staple mushrooms, such as button mushrooms and others that come from their mushroom caves.
- Steak Tartare: Although this may intimidate some people, this dish is meant to evoke the primal instincts within you. The meat cooked in this dish is not exactly cooked at all, as it is eaten raw. The fresh meat is simply finely chopped and mixed with various herbs such as onions, and served with yolk from an egg and bread such as rye bread.
- Salade Comtoise: This rustic salad is very iconic to France, as it makes use of specially prepared smoked sausage, cheeses, lettuce, croutons that are excessively crusty as well as crunchy, lettuce, nuts, and your choice of delicious seasoning.
- Ratatouille: Although this may remind you of a famous and lovable Pixar movie, the film is not the only lovable aspect of the term ratatouille. It is also a dish which is served as a side dish or main course for a simple lunch with onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, zucchini, and other delectable ingredients.
- Piperade: This is similar to ratatouille, except it is spicier, more richly-flavored, and can be easily made at home rather than ordering it at a restaurant. It uses red and green peppers and fresh eggs.
- Caramel: Everyone knows the taste of caramel, but caramel from France is a different story. Both natural caramel and ginger caramel are highly recommended, as they are exceedingly rich and buttery in flavor compared to the usual caramel treats.
These are only glimpses of the wonders of French cuisine, and there are many other dishes and pastries to try, such as Jacques Genin chocolate, kouglof pastry, and socca pancakes. To catch a wider glimpse of this fascinating cuisine, visit France and immerse yourself in the origin of the diverse dishes you’ve only just heard of.